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      HUMAN IMPACTS. The unique ecology of human predators.

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          Abstract

          Paradigms of sustainable exploitation focus on population dynamics of prey and yields to humanity but ignore the behavior of humans as predators. We compared patterns of predation by contemporary hunters and fishers with those of other predators that compete over shared prey (terrestrial mammals and marine fishes). Our global survey (2125 estimates of annual finite exploitation rate) revealed that humans kill adult prey, the reproductive capital of populations, at much higher median rates than other predators (up to 14 times higher), with particularly intense exploitation of terrestrial carnivores and fishes. Given this competitive dominance, impacts on predators, and other unique predatory behavior, we suggest that humans function as an unsustainable "super predator," which—unless additionally constrained by managers—will continue to alter ecological and evolutionary processes globally.

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          Most cited references18

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          Primary production required to sustain global fisheries

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            Assessing the causes of late Pleistocene extinctions on the continents.

            One of the great debates about extinction is whether humans or climatic change caused the demise of the Pleistocene megafauna. Evidence from paleontology, climatology, archaeology, and ecology now supports the idea that humans contributed to extinction on some continents, but human hunting was not solely responsible for the pattern of extinction everywhere. Instead, evidence suggests that the intersection of human impacts with pronounced climatic change drove the precise timing and geography of extinction in the Northern Hemisphere. The story from the Southern Hemisphere is still unfolding. New evidence from Australia supports the view that humans helped cause extinctions there, but the correlation with climate is weak or contested. Firmer chronologies, more realistic ecological models, and regional paleoecological insights still are needed to understand details of the worldwide extinction pattern and the population dynamics of the species involved.
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              Cascading top-down effects of changing oceanic predator abundances.

              1. Top-down control can be an important determinant of ecosystem structure and function, but in oceanic ecosystems, where cascading effects of predator depletions, recoveries, and invasions could be significant, such effects had rarely been demonstrated until recently. 2. Here we synthesize the evidence for oceanic top-down control that has emerged over the last decade, focusing on large, high trophic-level predators inhabiting continental shelves, seas, and the open ocean. 3. In these ecosystems, where controlled manipulations are largely infeasible, 'pseudo-experimental' analyses of predator-prey interactions that treat independent predator populations as 'replicates', and temporal or spatial contrasts in predator populations and climate as 'treatments', are increasingly employed to help disentangle predator effects from environmental variation and noise. 4. Substantial reductions in marine mammals, sharks, and piscivorous fishes have led to mesopredator and invertebrate predator increases. Conversely, abundant oceanic predators have suppressed prey abundances. Predation has also inhibited recovery of depleted species, sometimes through predator-prey role reversals. Trophic cascades have been initiated by oceanic predators linking to neritic food webs, but seem inconsistent in the pelagic realm with effects often attenuating at plankton. 5. Top-down control is not uniformly strong in the ocean, and appears contingent on the intensity and nature of perturbations to predator abundances. Predator diversity may dampen cascading effects except where nonselective fisheries deplete entire predator functional groups. In other cases, simultaneous exploitation of predator and prey can inhibit prey responses. Explicit consideration of anthropogenic modifications to oceanic foodwebs should help inform predictions about trophic control. 6. Synthesis and applications. Oceanic top-down control can have important socio-economic, conservation, and management implications as mesopredators and invertebrates assume dominance, and recovery of overexploited predators is impaired. Continued research aimed at integrating across trophic levels is needed to understand and forecast the ecosystem effects of changing oceanic predator abundances, the relative strength of top-down and bottom-up control, and interactions with intensifying anthropogenic stressors such as climate change.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science (New York, N.Y.)
                1095-9203
                0036-8075
                Aug 21 2015
                : 349
                : 6250
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Post Office Box 1700, Station CSC, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada. Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Post Office Box 2429, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 3Y3, Canada. Hakai Institute, Post Office Box 309, Heriot Bay, British Columbia V0P 1H0, Canada. darimont@uvic.ca.
                [2 ] Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Post Office Box 1700, Station CSC, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada. Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Post Office Box 2429, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 3Y3, Canada.
                [3 ] Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Post Office Box 1700, Station CSC, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada. Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Post Office Box 2429, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 3Y3, Canada. Hakai Institute, Post Office Box 309, Heriot Bay, British Columbia V0P 1H0, Canada.
                [4 ] Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Post Office Box 3060, Station CSC, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada.
                Article
                349/6250/858
                10.1126/science.aac4249
                26293961
                de886ebd-d0fd-41b7-8e3f-d05b19db1177
                Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
                History

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